Armadillo Vault

Structural Designer

Block Research Group and ODB Engineering

Client Name

Venice Biennale


Venice, Italy


ARCHITECT: Block Research Group


The Armadillo, exhibited at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, is a doubly curved, unreinforced, cut-stone funicular vault, constructed from 399 limestone blocks. The thickness of stone varies from 8-12 cm at the supports to 5 cm at its peak. With a height of 4.4 m and spans of over 15 m, the structure has a span-to-thickness ratio less than half of that of an eggshell. Modern methods of computational form finding, structural analysis and digital fabrication were all interwoven to create a compression-only masonry structure inspired by traditional masonry craftsmanship and analysis methods.

Judge's comment:

The Armadillo is a reinvention of a traditional structural form – the stone vault. The structure has been designed using computational form finding and structural analysis, and then cut using precise digital fabrication methods. The achievement of this project is to design and fabricate the stone elements in such a way that each stone rests on its neighbours without the need for any adhesive or mortar.

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